BACKGROUND : Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is increasingly recognised as an important cause of morbidity and mortality in South Africa (SA). Although the cost of dialysis is well documented in developed countries, little is known about this cost in sub-Saharan Africa. OBJECTIVE : To review the costs of providing peritoneal dialysis (PD) and haemodialysis (HD) at the Pietersburg renal dialysis public-private partnership (PPP) unit in Limpopo Province, SA. METHODS : A retrospective review of the cost of inputs required for HD and PD was conducted from a provider's perspective, covering the period 2007 - 2012. A top-down approach was used to estimate the average annual cost per patient on HD and PD. RESULTS : During the 6-year period under review, the number of patients on dialysis increased from 77 in 2007 to 182 in 2012. More than 60% of the patients were on HD. The average annual cost per patient was estimated to be ZAR212 286 (USD25 888) and ZAR255 076 (USD31 106) for HD and PD, respectively, in 2012. Personnel cost, PD supplies, HD supplies, the outsourcing fee and pharmaceutical supplies were the main cost drivers. PD proved to be more expensive than HD, despite the use of locally manufactured fluids. CONCLUSIONS : The study highlights the exceptionally high cost of dialysis treatment. Dialysis should be made more accessible by implementing measures to address the main cost drivers. Moreover, a comprehensive approach that includes prevention of CKD at primary healthcare level, an organ donation programme and an effective kidney transplant programme is urgently required in Limpopo. Further research is required to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the PPP approach.